2007/11/04

12.1" Linux Laptop vs. Gphone

If you had to make a choice between buying a 12.1" Linux laptop for $300 or a Google phone for the same price, which would you choose?

Everex, a US subsidiary of the Taiwanese computer company First International Computer, announced last week that they plan to sell Linux laptops in 2008 for under $300. A 12.1" laptop for under $300 will be a darned handy device for all your mobile computing needs. Something that small can be put in just about any backpack, briefcase or carry bag. With free wireless becoming increasingly easy to find in most cities, it would certainly be worth $300 to always have the small Linux laptop with you wherever you go.

One of the added benefits of the laptop being Linux is that you won't have to worry about buying new versions of the software on the laptop. And you can add new programs without having to shell out a bunch of money for those, either. But probably the best benefit of the Linux laptop is that the time you currently spend on keeping your Windows laptop free of malware can now be spent on productive computing tasks or on taking care of other activities on your to-do list. At this point in time, malware is just not a concern for Linux computer users.

According to another recent article, however, personal computers in at least one country appear to be on the wane. PC shipments in Japan have fallen for five consecutive quarters, and there are no indications that trend will reverse itself. Other consumer electronics are vying for the consumers dollars and, more often than not, winning. Japanese consumers are buying big flat panel TVs, internet-connected gaming consoles and DVRs (digital video recorders). For many Asian countries, cell phones are the primary method of connecting to the internet, and although that may not be the case yet in Japan, it is likely that the younger demographic is spending an increasing amount of time accessing the internet via their phones.

The Apple iPhone was a major advance in making cell phone internet access an enjoyable experience. I've had a number of people tell me that the iPhone is the first cell phone they've had fun with for online usage. The iPhone will cause other cell phone manufacturers to improve their models. However, because of the way Steve Jobs, Apple and AT&T prefer to keep the iPhone a relatively closed, proprietary system, the iPhone is somewhat limited on how fast new applications can be added to it. Many of the guesses about how the Gphone will differ from the iPhone include the option for developers to be able to easily launch innovative new programs on the Google system.

Tech articles for the past week have been buzzing about Google's entry into the cell phone market -- go to Google Tech News and read a few of them if you want to get some background on how people expect it to impact the market. It is widely thought Google will announce something about the Gphone this week, although they don't call it the Gphone. Google's expected entry into mobile phones is one of the reason's given that its stock climbed so quickly from $600 to $700 per share.

If a Gphone gives me a quality cell phone combined with an enjoyable internet experience at free wifi spots, I'm buying one. Even if the Gphone isn't as polished and cool as the iPhone, I'm betting it will be more useful. There are at least four or five different things that Google could initially roll out for a Gphone, so there's little value in predicting what they'll unveil this week. But the possibilities of what the Gphone can lead to are endless. And that's the real value of the Gphone. It can take the new benchmark established by the iPhone and raise that benchmark up another order of magnitude.

Going back to the question posed at the start of this blog post, my guess is that most people would buy the $300 laptop vs a $300 Gphone.

If the Gphone is under $200 with monthly charges no more expensive than current plans, it will be a hands-down winner. At that point, the cell phone business could morph into an entirely new creature, and we will have all witnessed truly disruptive technology...

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